Midori YamamuraJan 28, 2022
Inventing the Singular
MIT Press 2015
Midori Yamamura’s Yayoi Kusama: Inventing the Singular (MIT Press, 2015) is an in-depth examination of the famed artist’s early years in Japan and the United States. Based on extensive research in Kusama’s archives as well as interviews with Kusama herself, Inventing the Singular both tracks the evolution of Kusama’s artistic practice and maps the artistic, social, and political contexts in which Kusama developed as an artist. The result is as much an analysis of the development of a globalized art world after the end of World War II as a study of one artist, however influential. The book begins with Kusama’s childhood in Japan before following her integration into artist groups, styles, and themes with a steadily more international focus. Yamamura’s careful scholarship seizes on connections to movements as diverse as Surrealism, Pop Art, and the Dutch Nul group to show how art dealers’ nascent control of the global art market encouraged the careers of white male artists at the expense of artists such as Kusama. Yamamura’s highlighting of the context in which Kusama’s career was established brings into stark relief just how striking the artist’s many achievements are. The book further shows how a variety of artists from around the world responded to the post-World War II end of their fascist governments by experimenting in similar ways and questioning the role of art in society. Inventing the Singular is the first book-length treatment of Kusama’s oeuvre in English outside of exhibit catalogues, an opportunity that Yamamura exploits to cross continents and art movements in a virtuosic analysis of the post-WWII art world.
Amanda Kennell is a scholar of modern Japanese media who works on digital and public humanities projects. I'm currently finishing up a book about Japanese adaptations of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland novels as an Assistant Teaching Professor of International Studies at North Carolina State University.